Calcutta, Feb. 2: Two unconnected events within 24 hours last week appeared to be pointers to the increasing sidelining of the new BJP leadership in Bengal in the scheme of the party’s central leadership.
On January 29, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee shuffled the Cabinet and, instead of wielding the axe in tune with perception in a section of the party, blessed Tapan Sikdar, who is not on best of terms with the state BJP set-up and its ally, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress.
Sikdar returned to centre-stage in Bengal as a junior Central minister in charge of small-scale industries and development of the Northeast.
On a short visit to the city on January 30, civil aviation minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussein met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings along with former state BJP vice-president Muzaffar Khan, a Sikdar supporter.
At the meeting, Bhattacharjee not only discussed civil aviation issues but expressed strong views on the state BJP leadership, especially president Tathagata Roy, an RSS nominee.
Bhattacharjee apparently complained to the Union minister about Roy’s “refusals” to co-operate with the government on issues of development.
Sikdar’s comeback, it is believed, could not have taken place without a nod from deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who was also held responsible for the closed Cabinet door on Mamata.
Bhattacharjee enjoys a good working relationship with Advani and his sharing feelings about the present state BJP dispensation with Hussein, another member of the Advani camp, is significant.
Roy declined to explain the leadership’s continuing faith in Sikdar and some of his supporters. “This is something I don’t want to comment on,” the state BJP president said.
“I want to rid the state party of all pro-CPM elements and make it adequately combative,” Roy said in course of a public meeting weeks ago.
If the developments are anything to go by, it is going to be a tall order.
Sikdar’s rise to prominence is also being viewed as a blow to chances of Mamata’s return to the Union Cabinet.